Government ignores calls to lift Centrelink payments

A report that recommended financial relief to more than a million Australians struggling on Centrelink payments is being downplayed by the government.

The Interim Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee (IEIAC) was established by the government to investigate JobSeeker payments and has advised, in a report released this week, that they are “seriously inadequate”.

The report also recommended increasing Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) payments.

However, ministers are already hosing down speculation that it may increase JobSeeker payments in the Federal Budget next month.

The IEIAC made 37 recommendations and found that current JobSeeker payments fared poorly when compared to a range of other social support payments including the Age Pension, as well as income poverty measures.  

A barrier to work

The committee found that “unemployment payments have fallen to such an inadequate level that they create a barrier to paid work”.

“It is also our view that our income support system should prevent poverty and financial distress to ensure people looking for paid work are not placed at a greater disadvantage by virtue of not having enough money to meet the essentials of life.”

The IEIAC recommends lifting JobSeeker to 90 per cent of the value of the Age Pension.

However, Treasurer Jim Chalmers made it clear the government would not commit to the recommendations.

“The Albanese government will always look to provide support where we can to those most in need, where it is responsible and affordable to do so, and weighed up against other priorities and fiscal challenges,” Dr Chalmers said in a joint statement with social services minister Amanda Rishworth.

“While we can’t fund every good idea, there will be measures in the May Budget to address disadvantage. This will include energy bill price relief that prioritises those on payments and pensions.”

The IEIAC recommendations would cost and estimated $34 billion over the next four years if they were implemented in full.

The IEIAC was established by the Albanese government as part of a deal with independent senator David Pocock to win his support on industrial relations reforms.

Senator Pocock was outraged at the government’s lukewarm response to the report, saying the results “could not be clearer”.

Forced to live in poverty

“It is unacceptable that – as one of the wealthiest countries in the world – so many people in our community, especially children, are being forced to live in poverty in this worsening cost-of-living crisis,” Senator Pocock said.

“It appears that this Labor government can find extra money for just about anything – from inland rail cost blowouts to submarines – but it won’t do more to protect the most vulnerable.”

Advocate group the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) said the government must raise the rate of JobSeeker and related payments.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said Dr Chalmers must act on these recommendations in the May Budget.

“With three million people living in poverty in Australia, there is no time for delay,” Dr Goldie said.

“The clear message from the committee is that JobSeeker and related payments are grossly inadequate. They entrench people in poverty and create a barrier to paid work for people looking for a job.

“The committee heard directly from people receiving these payments, including many who are routinely skipping meals, and forgoing essential medication and healthcare just to keep a roof over their head or pay their energy bill.

“In this Budget the Treasurer has the chance to reduce poverty and suffering in this country. He must act now.”

The committee found that the CRA rate did not take into account rent stress and the rising cost of living.

“At a time of rapidly rising rents, the 1.3 million Australian households receiving CRA are at greater risk of financial stress and poverty,” the IEIAC said.

“The committee recommends the government commit to increase CRA and reform its indexation to better reflect rent paid.”

Jobseeker payments are for people aged between 22 and Age Pension age who meet the income and assets test and Australian residence rules.

Payments range from $693.10 to $949.30 per fortnight depending on family circumstances.

According to the YourLifeChoices Insights survey, which surveyed almost 7000 readers, just 1.22 per cent were on Jobseeker payments.

Are you on JobSeeker payments or do you know someone who is? Do you think they are enough? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Also read: Government rethink on debt collection to protect vulnerable Australians

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. Rock-hard place. Does the government pay out more money to a small group and risk inflation staying high? There are two ways to combat inflation, reduce spending by restricting the finances people can use or raise interest rates which also restricts the finance people can use. The first is the responsibility of the government and the second is the responsibility of the RBA.

  2. Since April last year, the RBA Cash rate has increased from 10 basis points to 385 basis points, which does not sound like much, but the equates to a rise of 3,850%.
    I wish that my income had gone up by that amount.
    The increases in the cash rate cause an increase in the Mortgage Rate for Home Borrowers, the problem there is that only less than 25% of home owners have a Mortgage, and these are the people that are directly affected by those increases.
    Renters are also affected through increased rents paid to their landlords because of the increased mortgage rates on their Investment Properties.
    And I won’t go into Negative Gearing.

    • I think using that mathematical principle is meaningless. Using that logic, had the rate been 0.01 basic points and risen to 10 basis points it would have been an “increase” of 1000%. So what.
      As for the report, the Jobseeker rate on average keeps up with inflation so I cannot see why this needs a further increase. Maybe the Government should help with getting people into work while there are so many vacancies.
      I do agree that Rent Assistance is a major issue. It never pays the whole amount so some JSA is needed to fill the gap. As Rent has increased, so has the amount needed to be be found from JSA to cover the gap. Therefore the spending power of JSA for rentpayers is reduced

  3. Jobseeker payments were meant to help people out while they looked for work, not to provide such a level of income there was no real incentive to find employment. The fact that there are so many on benefits now while there are thousands of job vacancies out there indicates benefits are now too high. Perhaps the government should look at limiting how long one person can be on Jobseeker benefits for, possibly a maximum of six months. People really do need to stop taking handouts and take any job available until they can tie down their occupation of choice.

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